New bill could force Illinois State Police to perform rapid DNA testing to solve backlog

CHICAGO (WLS) -- New action is being taken to reduce evidence sitting unchecked.

After an I-Team investigation exposing a system with hundreds of backlogged murder cases, a state lawmaker recently introduced legislation to reduce major DNA testing delays.

Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles and the I-Team found that hundreds of killers could be walking the streets of Chicago. The I-Team exposed the problem in November.

More than 750 Chicago murder cases were stalled at the lab, awaiting DNA analysis.

After the investigation, at a December public hearing Illinois State Police Lab officials told lawmakers that the total forensic backlog of all types of crimes was close to 14,000 and more than 3,600 of those cases are DNA-related.

"Talking to people seeing your report, seeing reports all over the place about what is happening to the families is heartbreaking," said State Rep. David McSweeney.

From Springfield, Rep. McSweeney told Knowles about his newly filed house joint resolution. With bipartisan support, the bill encourages the ISP to develop a plan to bring new rapid DNA testing to the state crime lab.

McSweny said rapid DNA testing can identify a suspect within hours.

"I think the media has put a lot of attention on this and frankly has forced this into action," McSweeney said. "It should have been done a long time ago."

But the technology will most likely come with a higher cost, as the state battles a budget crisis.

"I think the number one objective is to process the DNA evidence more quickly. That's part of what they are going to develop in their plan to show us the full cost," McSweeney told Knowles. "I am as about as conservative as the come when it comes to fiscal policy but this is money well spent we need to make sure we are catching these criminals."

The Illinois State Police declined to comment on this pending legislation. ISP has previously said it is working with the Cook County State's Attorney to establish a rush request protocol when needed, adding that staffing is also to blame for delays.

If passed in the next few months, the bill does ask ISP to issue a report on its findings to implement rapid DNA by September.

The I-Team will continue to follow the story and bring updates on this bill and other developments to the ongoing DNA delays.
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